College Professor Salary

Interested in becoming a college professor? This complete guide has all the information you'll need to know, including average salary by state and salaries for different positions.

How Much Do College Professors Make?

The salary for college instructors is as broad as the range of jobs in postsecondary education. As a college professor, you might work full time at a 4-year university, dividing your time between teaching and research, or part-time at a 2-year technical college, where your work is likely to be focused exclusively in the classroom. Regardless, as a college professor, you'll likely earn well above the average annual salary for all occupations, which was $50,620 as of May 2017.

As a college professor, you can expect to make a salary anywhere between $50,000 to $155,000 based on 2018 data. Of course, this will vary based on where you're teaching as well as how much experience you have. For example, those with over 20 years' experience as a professor make about $40,000 more on average than those who are just starting out.

Let's look a closer look at salary information for college professors and then delve into some of the factors that can affect what you'd earn in this field.

Average College Professor Salary

Professors in general made an average annual salary of $82,880 as of 2017. However, your salary as a college professor could vary greatly based on several factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Type of institution (2-year vs. 4-year and public school vs. private school)
  • Level of employment (tenured/tenure-track professor vs. adjunct professor)
  • Location of school

Pay for college professors also differs by subject taught. For example, consider these average annual salaries for postsecondary teachers from May 2017:

Subject Average Annual Salary
Biological science professor $93,010
Business professor $100,270
Engineering professor $109,830
English language and literature professor $77,660
Law professor $129,840
Math professor $84,710
Psychology professor $85,050
Social sciences professor $79,050

Community College Professor Salary

As a community college professor, you would teach at a 2-year public or private college. This can include community colleges, as well as technical and vocational schools. In 2016-2017, community college professors working at public schools earned an average salary of $72,598 while those working at private institutions earned an average of $43,344.

University Professor Salary

As a full-time professor at a 4-year college or university, you could earn significantly more than a community college professor. In 2016-2017, these professionals earned an average wage of $116,118 at 4-year public institutions and those who worked at 4-year private schools earned an average of $123,495.

Remember, though, that salary can also vary greatly based on where you teach. For example, in 2016, the average salary for professors at Duke University - a 4-year, private research institution in Durham, North Carolina - was $188,199, while professors at Montana State University - a 4-year, public research institution in Bozeman, Montana - earned an average of $116,119.

Tenured Professor Salary

Academic tenure provides legal protection for college professors, guaranteeing that you can't be fired from your position without just cause. This is important because it would allow you the freedom to teach and conduct research without fear of influence, control or the threat of termination. As a tenured professor, you'd likely be a permanent, full-time employee of a college or university, but it can be a long road to reach this level; tenure isn't usually granted until you've gained at least six to seven years of teaching and research experience and gained a stellar national reputation. As of August 2018, tenured professors made an average annual salary of $84,592.

Adjunct Professor Salary

An adjunct professor is a professor who's not tenured nor on track to become tenured. Instead, you would work on a contract basis and are a part-time employee of a college or university. You'd have fewer responsibilities than tenure-track and tenured professors, for example, you could teach classes but would be exempt from conducting research and publishing papers - but you'd also earn less pay and wouldn't receive benefits. As of August 2018, adjunct professors made an average of $30,191 per year.

Online Professor Salary

As an online professor, you would work for an online school or for a college or university that has a physical campus but also offers distance-learning courses. This might afford you the luxury of working from home, but online professors tend to earn much less that their on-campus counterparts. In fact, the annual salary for an online professor was $65,979 as of August 2018, nearly $20,000 less than the wages of a tenured professor. This number can vary widely though based off of who you work for and how many hours you work, for example online professors reported salaries ranging from $24,000 to $122,000, as of August 2018.

College Professor Salary with a Ph.D.

To teach at a 4-year college or university, you'll most likely need a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D.; however, a master's degree and/or experience in your field of expertise might be enough to work at a 2-year postsecondary school. Professors with a Ph.D. earned an average annual salary of $97,645 as of August 2018.

Associate Professor Salary

An associate professor is an appointed professor who's on track to earn tenure, generally within three to five years. As of 2016-2017, associate professors made an average of $83,433 per year at 4-year public colleges and universities, while their counterparts at 4-year private schools earned $82,904.

Assistant Professor Salary

Also an appointed position, assistant professor is a rung down the ladder from associate professor. As an assistant professor, you would be expected to earn tenure within a set amount of time, typically seven years. As of 2016-2017, assistant professors earned an average of $71,740 per year at 4-year public institutions and $68,500 annually at 4-year private colleges and universities.

Average College Professor Salary by State

Based on where you work, your average annual salary as a full-time professor could vary greatly. In 2016-2017, the highest paid professors were found in the District of Columbia ($153,131), Massachusetts ($144,974) and California ($135,856), while the states with the lowest salaries for professors were Idaho ($82,435), Montana ($83,074) and Kentucky ($85,509). Check out this list of average salaries per state, including the District of Columbia:

  • Alabama: $107,721
  • Alaska: $104,174
  • Arizona: $120,694
  • Arkansas: $90,515
  • California: $135,856
  • Colorado: $104,015
  • Connecticut: $132,534
  • Delaware: $131,712
  • District of Columbia: $153,131
  • Florida: $101,682
  • Georgia: $98,984
  • Hawaii: $113,369
  • Idaho: $82,435
  • Illinois: $119,807
  • Indiana: $114,075
  • Iowa: $97,930
  • Kansas: $90,072
  • Kentucky: $85,509
  • Louisiana: $95,859
  • Maine: $103,186
  • Maryland: $115,786
  • Massachusetts: $144,974
  • Michigan: $115,045
  • Minnesota: $106,305
  • Mississippi: $93,970
  • Missouri: $100,518
  • Montana: $83,074
  • Nebraska: $100,260
  • Nevada: $94,357
  • New Hampshire: $114,182
  • New Jersey: $130,379
  • New Mexico: $86,810
  • New York: $124,662
  • North Carolina: $121,017
  • North Dakota: $97,981
  • Ohio: $105,015
  • Oklahoma: $90,970
  • Oregon: $105,333
  • Pennsylvania: $123,921
  • Rhode Island: $124,063
  • South Carolina: $96,866
  • South Dakota: $89,416
  • Tennessee: $100,681
  • Texas: $109,068
  • Utah: $107,908
  • Vermont: $98,143
  • Virginia: $109,268
  • Washington: $112,881
  • West Virginia: $86,174
  • Wisconsin: $98,215
  • Wyoming: $107,913

All statistics come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), the Chronicle of Higher Education (2016-2017) and PayScale.com (2018).